SUPERNATURAL NIGHT OUT; Analysis: Halloween Is Almost upon Us and the Demand for All Things Ghostly Is at Its peak.South Wales Is Rife with So-Called Haunted Houses but Do We Really Believe in Things That Go Bump in the Night?

Article excerpt

Byline: by Sasha Mansworth

AS the witching hour approaches on October 31, the promise of a ghostly encounter will be luring fearless visitors to haunted houses around South Wales.

Halloween is traditionally the one day of the year when ghosts make their presence felt and if local legends are to be believed, almost every pub and stately home has one - they are good for business, attracting thrill seekers eager for a fright.

One of the most well known spooky spots is Llancaiach Fawr in Nelson. It boasts eight ghosts, there's Martha the housekeeper who died a sudden and unnatural death; a Victorian gentleman wearing a tall hat and black cloak; a limping man; ghosts of children playing on the stairways; and the sometimes unfriendly characters of Colonel Pritchard and his grandfather.

The house's manager, Suzanne Allen, said: "There have been a great many ghostly sightings here over the years and we estimate that we have about eight ghosts in total. It is a bit spooky, but you get used to it.

"We have researched some of the ghosts and most are former residents or their friends, and others are former members of staff. The ghosts all appear in different parts of the house and we even have one that is seen only in the garden. Sometimes you see the ghost and on other occasions there are unexplained shadows, voices and footsteps."

And if you're planning more than a fleeting visit with a scary overnight stop this Halloween, some hotels boast supernatural guests. If you're game enough, Llechwen Hall in Llanfabon can offer a haunted room.

In the past, prisoners were kept at the Hall while visiting magistrates stayed in the hotel.

But local historian David Pearse argues that ghost stories are nothing more than a myth.

He said: "Any of the local ghost stories you have to take with a big pinch of salt". Religious groups also dismiss such stories, offering alternative explanations.

Nevertheless, tales of hauntings still hold a creepy fascination for us, especially around this time of year. But why are we so taken with them? And why, when things go bump in the night, is there a tingle of excitement as much as feelings of fear and trepidation?

Dr Dave Oester, of the US-based International Ghost Hunters Society, has investigated many reported sightings throughout the world. He says fear of the unknown is a natural reaction.

"People often mistranslate their feelings of not understanding an event with feelings of fear, " he said.

"We fear what we do not understand and we feel threatened by what we fear. We immediately label an event so we can deal with it.

"I have never encountered a demon or evil spirits in all of my ghost-hunting days.

"Have I been scared? Yes, but not from demons or evil spirits, but from my own imagination and personal fears."

According to recent research, as many teenagers believe in ghosts, the spirit world and horoscopes as in the existence of God. …